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Northern Ireland Assembly

On this page you can find out about the Northern Ireland Assembly, including:
  • What does it do?
  • How is it made up?
  • How and when is it elected?

What does the Northern Ireland Assembly do?

The Northern Ireland Assembly represents the people of Northern Ireland. 

It has the power to make decisions and pass laws in the following areas:
  • agriculture and rural development
  • culture and the arts
  • economic development
  • education and training
  • the environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • industry, trade and investment
  • local government
  • policing and criminal justice
  • sport and leisure
  • tourism
  • town and country planning
  • transport and roads
  • water and flood defence
These are called transferred matters

Reserved matters

Areas such as broadcasting and import and export laws are called reserved matters.

The UK Government currently makes decisions on these matters, but can transfer responsibility to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Excepted matters 

Areas such as defence and taxation are excepted matters. This means they remain the responsibility of the UK Parliament.

How is it made up? 

There are 108 elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Six MLAs represent each of the 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland.

The Assembly is led by the Executive which is made up of the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the Executive Committee of Ministers. 

Each Assembly Minister is responsible for a specific area of work. Ministers must answer questions from MLAs about their policies and activities.

How is it elected? 

The voting system used in Northern Ireland is called the single transferable vote (STV) system.

When you vote in an election for the Northern Ireland Assembly you will be given a ballot paper listing the candidates competing for the six seats in your constituency. You should rank these candidates in order of preference – you can rank as many candidates as you like.

When is it elected? 

Northern Ireland Assembly elections take place every four years. 

The next Northern Ireland Assembly election takes place in 2016.

Who is eligible to vote?

To vote in a Northern Ireland Assembly election a person must be registered to vote and also be one of the following:

  • 18 years of age or over on polling day
  • a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of the European Union
  • resident in Northern Ireland
  • not be subject to any legal incapacity to vote

The following cannot vote in a Northern Ireland Assembly election:

  • anyone other than British, qualifying Commonwealth or European Union citizens
  • convicted persons detained in pursuance of their sentences, excluding contempt of court (though remand prisoners, unconvicted prisoners and civil prisoners can vote if they are on the electoral register)
  • anyone found guilty within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election

Click here for more information on who is eligible to vote.